ASIA/PAKISTAN - Blasphemy: it is urgent to defend the Christians from summary executions and to protect minorities

Monday, 8 April 2013

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - If the Christian Younis Masih, sentenced to death for blasphemy in recent days was acquitted by the High Court (see Fides 03/04/2013), his wife Meena Bibi and four children suffered for eight years and now the whole family lives the problem of their safety: they may in fact be targeted by radical groups who carry out summary executions of those accused of blasphemy. As Fides sources recall, more than 50 people, only accused of blasphemy were killed in recent years on the street, in jail, or in the buildings of justice.
Among the most striking cases, in 1993 the Christian Manzoor Masih was killed by Islamic militants during the trial, while he was being escorted by the police. Two other Christians were accused and later released, were forced to leave the country.
In 2010, Islamic extremists killed the brothers Rahid and Sajjid Emmanuel, arrested for alleged blasphemy, in front of hundreds of people before the court in Faisalabad.
There are also fears for Asia Bibi’s life, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, in prison for nearly 1,400days, and for Martha Bibi, released on bail, who for seven years has been facing trial in Lahore. In a situation of concealment there is the case of Khuram Shahzad accused of blasphemy, on bail since October 2012, on trial in Lahore. In the last case reported to Fides by the NGO Christian-based LEAD ("Legal Evangelical Association Development"), Sawan Masih, another Christian accused of blasphemy will have to go before the bar next April 15.
The urgent need to protect minorities by extremist groups was confirmed yesterday at a conference held in Karachi, in which civil society representatives pointed out that "religious minorities are constantly discriminated against by the people and government." The conference, entitled "Integration of religious minorities in Pakistan" was organized by the "Forum for Human Rights in Pakistan", in collaboration with the "Centre for Peace and Development". The participants stressed the need to protect minorities by a general attitude of discrimination that exists in politics and also in the field of education, by inviting the media to highlight these issues, crucial to democracy, the rule of law and the respect for human rights in the country. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 08/04/2013)